If you've been on Twitter or Facebook recently, you've probably seen a viral campaign called "Kony 2012." But who's behind it this effort to get rid of a Ugandan warlord accused of war crimes and sexual slavery? NBC's Craig Melvin reports.
A charity whose tactics have been criticized is making traction online with a video, "KONY 2012," that aims to bring down the leader of a cult-like rebel army in Africa.
The 30-minute documentary, which has had more than 7 million YouTube downloads, was made by Invisible Children, a charity that wants Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army, to face trial in an international court on charges of using children as soldiers and other human rights crimes in Uganda.
A recent Foreign Affairs report challenged the tactics used by the charity and several others, saying they had exaggerated the scale of Kony's crimes.
The blog Visible Children, written by a Canadian college student, also questioned the value of Invisible Children's emphasis on filmmaking and social media advocacy and pointed out that it was advocating for western military intervention in Africa.
Jedediah Jenkins, the charity's director of idea development, told the Washington Post that the criticism was "myopic" and that the film reflected a "tipping point" by getting young Americans to care about an issue in Africa.
"The film has reached a place in the global consciousness where people know who Kony is, they know his crimes," Jenkins added. "Kids know and they respond. And then they won’t allow it to happen anymore."
Invisible Children also posted a response to the criticisms here.
On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency said the Lord's Resistance Army had launched a new spate of attacks in the northeastern region Democratic Republic of Congo this year after a lull in the second half of 2011.
But Mounoubai Madnodje, a spokesman for the UN's Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the LRA was on its last legs.
"We think right now it's the last gasp of a dying organization that's still trying to make a statement," he said. Madnodje said there are only about 200 LRA fighters left.
But experts on the LRA were skeptical about writing off Kony's force too soon. Mareike Schomerus at the London School of Economics said small scale attacks did not necessarily mean the LRA was getting weaker.
"It doesn't tell us anything because it's the same thing they have been doing for the last 25 years," she said.
The LRA, which emerged in northern Uganda in the late 1990s, is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated thousands of people. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court and the African Union, which has designated it as a terrorist group.
In October the United States sent 100 military personnel, mainly special forces, to train and advise the forces fighting against the LRA.
This article includes reporting by msnbc.com staff and Reuters.
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